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Welcoming Events Help Frosh Unwind

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
Freshmen were treated to a catered buffet last night in Johnson Athletic Center. The dinner was the first mandatory Orientation event this year.

By Brett Altschul
and Zareena Hussain

Last night, the Class of 2002 was able to chill out with their fellow students before beginning the serious business of Orientation.

The night began with a new welcoming dinner, hosted by Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Paul A. LaGace '78 and Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy Emeritus Jay Kaiser. The theme of the evening was exploration.

Seated in Johnson Athletics Center according to the periodic table, each group of students had a chance to get to know the other members of their group and their orientation leader.

"I thought it was funny how they had the periodic table," said Veena L. Thomas '02, "It made you know you were at MIT."

"It was a good opportunity to meet people," Thomas added.

Freshmen pack Student Center

Following the welcome dinner, the Class of 2002 was invited to participate in a variety of activities including caricature drawing and movies in the Student Center.

An estimated 700 students occupied four floors in the Student Center after the welcome dinner to meet each other and enjoy their first day with their fellow students, according to Ricky A. Gresh, co-organizer of the event and program coordinator for the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs.

"I thought everyone was going to be shy," said Luis M. Otero '02. That myth was soon dispelled for Otero however. "You can get to know everyone here," Otero added.

The energy in the air was tangible. "This is just their first night. I guess they are just excited," Gresh said.

"I haven't seen anyone who has sat in the corner and done nothing," said Rory P. Pheiffer '02.

In addition to good food and good people, several events were planned to keep students occupied past midnight.

A hypnotist on hand to entertain students. Originally scheduled for an hour, he was so popular that the show was extended for an additional half-hour, Gresh said.

"The hypnotist was awesome," said Miguel Rivera '02.

Following the hypnotist, 350 freshmen gathered in Lobdell Food Court to watch Austin Powers.

In addition to a movie, a jazz band was on hand in the coffeehouse to mellow out freshmen while a DJplayed music outside on the student center steps.

Board games kept students occupied in Networks while video games were free in the Student Center basement. Students created spin art using frisbees on the center's first floor.

The Student Center activities were co-organized by Gresh, Monica Huggins and Heather Trickett of the Public Service Center, and the Orientation leaders.

Welcome dinner praised

While students were pumped to get to know each other last night, they also enjoyed the welcome dinner itself.

The freshmen were first introduced to MIT with remarks from LaGace and Kaiser. Lagace offered up advice to incoming freshmen while Kaiser introduced freshmen to their first brain teaser at MIT.

Kaiser posed to students the challenge of balancing six nails on a single one. After presenting the problem, he strode through the crowds, congratulating each table that successfully completed the task.

After several minutes, LaGace revealed the correct solution, composed with extra-large nails. He carried the solution around Johnson for all to see.

As LaGace revealed the solution, Kaiser said it was a metaphor for students' experiences at MIT. "The one nail represents you," he said. "The six nails represent the lives you will lead here."

The six nails represented academic life, social life, spiritual life, love life, past and future.

Somewhat surprisingly for students, Kaiser focused most on the love life aspect of an MIT career. "I think that you can have a love affair, not only with with a human being," he began, inserting a long pause. The audience waited tensely, half-expecting some off-color remark, until he finished, "but also with an institution." At this, the freshman class broke into relieved laughter.

"I liked the introduction. I didn't get bored," Otero said.

Hacks emphasized in speech

Kaiser then went on to highlight many of the most famous hacks that have punctuated MIT history.

The presentation detailed such well-known hacks as the weather balloon inflated during the 1982 Harvard-Yale game, the Great Pumpkin image placed on the Great Dome, and the ping-pong balls dropped from the ceiling of Lobby 7.

"That was a lot of cool stuff going on there," said Raymond Morales '02.

After the hack slide show, Kaiser returned the podium to LaGace after formally introducing him. He mentioned LaGace's calculation, using the MIT wind tunnel, of how a new structure built behind home plate at Fenway Park decreased the number of home runs hit in the park.

LaGace then fielded questions from the freshmen about MIT life and culture, sharing his knowledge of the Institute, garnered as both a student and a professor.

Students also go the chance to sit down and talk to professors and fellow students in small groups at the dinner, but this structure may have provided a hindrance to some.

"It was kind of tough getting people to talk. It was just kind of awkward at first," said Jonathan M. Graham '02.